The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday dropped charges against US author Ethan Gutmann and Taiwanese political pundit Brian Wu (吳祥輝) in a defamation case brought by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) over Gutmann’s allegations that Ko had played a role in China’s forced organ harvesting program.
Taipei prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence against Wu and Gutmann, author of the book The Slaughter, published in 2014 and billed as an expose of the “mass killings, organ harvesting and China’s secret solution to its dissident problem.”
Expressing displeasure with the announcement, Ko said he would talk to his lawyers before deciding on what action to take.
Photo: Chien Li-chung, Taipei Times
Wu arranged for Gutmann’s visit to Taiwan in October 2018 to talk about his book, which suggested that Ko had helped Chinese medical authorities on techniques and equipment for harvesting organs from Falun Gong members, political dissidents and inmates.
At an international news conference in Taipei on Oct. 2, 2018, Gutmann said “Ko was an intermediary” for Taiwanese patients wanting to receive organ transplants in China, and that Ko, having taught extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) techniques to doctors in China, created a “perverse incentive” for Chinese doctors to harvest live organs.
During the question-and-answer session, when someone asked: “Do you think that Dr Ko is a liar?” Gutmann nodded and said: “Yes.”
On hearing this, Ko was furious, saying: “I have lived in the US before, so I know that calling a person a liar in the US is a serious accusation,” and demanded that Gutmann issue an apology within 24 hours.
When neither Gutmann nor Wu apologized, Ko’s lawyers on Oct. 4 filed a complaint in Taipei, accusing Gutmann of defamation.
On the same afternoon, former independent legislator Huang Wen-ling (黃文玲) also filed a complaint with Taipei prosecutors accusing Wu and Gutmann of violating election laws by making groundless accusations ahead of the mayoral elections on Nov. 24, 2018.
Ko won re-election by a narrow margin over the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) Ting Shou-chung (丁守中).
of In dropping the charges, prosecutors said that someone had asked whether Ko was a “liar,” prompting Gutmann to answer.
They also cited written communication between the two when Gutmann was writing the book, and Ko had given him the go-ahead.
There might have been “some misunderstanding arising from the translation between Chinese and English,” they said, adding that there was insufficient evidence that election laws had been breached.
On hearing the decision, Gutmann wrote on his Facebook page: “I love Taiwan,” accompanied by a photograph of him at the prosecutors’ office in 2018 to answer questions about the complaint.
In an interview published yesterday in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the sister newspaper of the Taipei Times), Gutmann said: “The organ harvesting tragedy was created by Beijing, but it has been assisted by a handful of foreign doctors who thought they could ride the Chinese dragon and come back home as if everything was normal. As I have made clear in my previous statements in Taipei and Westminster, some Taiwanese doctors were not immune to these temptations.”
“Yet I also remember that the Taiwanese medical establishment recently stood up alone to warn the world of a potential pandemic. That took courage. Yet it also came from Taiwan’s unique understanding of the mainland,” he said.
“I don’t need to tell you what is happening in Xinjiang. You understand. So on behalf of the tens of thousands of Uighurs who are being slaughtered for their organs every year, I ask Taiwan to stand up alone one more time and terminate all contact with the mainland Chinese transplant industry. It may take years, but the world will follow,” he said.
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